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Windows 11 review roundup: Here's what experts are saying about Microsoft's new operating system

Windows 11 Logo
Windows 11 Logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

It's official: Windows 11 is finally here. It spent months in the Insider preview space, being tested by eager Windows enthusiasts and critics alike. Many people enjoyed aspects of it, such as its refreshed Windows apps, while an equally vocal portion of people complained about parts of the new OS, such as its controversial Start menu which our very own senior editor Jez Corden outright hates.

Now, official reviews are live, and it's time for the experts to weigh in with their final thoughts on Windows 11's release build. You can get your Windows 11 takes from the common user on Reddit or Twitter as well, don't forget. But if you want insights penned by the tech experts who run the enthusiast sites you like to visit, then take a look at this roundup of what some of the big-name reviewers are saying about the latest iteration of Microsoft's long-running operating system.

Zac Bowden gave Windows 11 3.5 out of 5 stars for our review of the OS, stating that while it has promise, it's not without issues that hurt its overall appeal.

Windows 11 has the potential to be the best version of Windows yet, but some of the choices Microsoft has made around Teams Chat, Widgets, setting browser defaults, the incomplete dark mode, and functionality of the taskbar really hold it back from being that. Hopefully the next release of Windows 11 fixes these issues.

Windows 11 Start Laptop Razerbook

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham also took issue with a number of Windows 11 components. While he liked his time with the OS overall, he drew a comparison to the much-maligned Windows 8 in terms of 11's UI changes, and compared Vista's system requirement situation to 11's as well.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, Windows 11 is going to be starting its life with some of the same public perception problems that made Windows Vista and Windows 8 relatively unpopular.

In PCWorld's Windows 11 review by Mark Hachman, the new operating system won the title of "unnecessary replacement" for Windows 10 that users may want to pass on for the time being.

Essentially, Microsoft places the most disconcerting aspects of Windows 11 front and center, while its best features are hidden deeper within. That puts Windows 11 at a marked disadvantage out of the gate.

Windows 11 Chat Setup

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Verge had a more positive view of the new OS, with Tom Warren's Windows 11 review granting the debut release an eight out of ten. He highlighted its new UI as a boon for W11, but also stated it's the first time ever he wouldn't immediately give a Windows upgrade to his main PC.

I can't point to a single feature in Windows 11 that's really worth upgrading instantly for; instead, it's a collection of changes that make the OS feel more modern and easier to use.

Forbes' Barry Collins didn't mince words in his review. He called it the best Windows yet, but only by a slim margin over Windows 10, which made it not worth upgrading to in many cases.

If you've got a stable Windows 10 installation and none of the new features are desperately appealing, why take the risk? Windows 10 will be supported with security updates until late 2025, so there's no rush to move.

Engadget's Devindra Hardawar hit Windows 11 with the "fresh coat of paint" label many people have already referred to Windows 11 as being.

It's a step forward, even if it isn't as momentous as Windows 10. It's also hard to ignore the story behind the new OS, which makes Windows 11 feel more like a way for Microsoft to save face after an embarrassing failure.

Windows 11 Storenew Dark Surfacebook

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

There you have it. A wide assortment of critics and experts agree that the OS certainly has aesthetic appeal and UI perks going for it, though its lack of groundbreaking innovation, finished designs, and meaningful incentives to upgrade hold it back. Those critiques share similarities with what many Insiders have been saying for months while testing and tinkering with the operating system, so the broad consensus appears to be: Upgrade if you want fresh looks, but you're not missing out on anything big by sticking with your current operating system for the time being.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

25 Comments
  • “Unfortunately for Microsoft, Windows 11 is going to be starting its life with some of the same public perception problems that made Windows Vista and Windows 8 relatively unpopular.” Public perception problems? Relatively unpopular? 🙄 They were both dismal failures, but for different reasons. Vista because it ran like S on existing hardware, and 8 because it was too different from 7. But the common point was that Businesses did not want either. Thus, failure. With 11 needing specific hardware AND being too different from 10, it’s easy to see that it will also have “public perception problems” and be “relatively unpopular”. Thus, businesses will not want it. Thus, another failure.
  • W11 doesn't seem too different to W10 (caveat: I haven't tried it in person)... It's just a minor UI upgrade. The dealbreaker are the many missing essential features.
  • Your point about businesses not wanting it because of hardware requirements is just ridiculous. Windows 11 is compatible with hardware that is at least 3 or 4 years old. Business don´t buy 5 year old devices... in fact they rarely buy devices and when they do it will automatically be compatible with windows 11...
  • I already upgraded my Business Lenovo laptop and it runs better than Windows 10 did.
  • Does anyone here remember why Vista ran so "poorly"? The OS itself was actually very good - I ran it with no issues for years - but Microsoft should have done exactly what they are doing now by enforcing minimum requirements. With Vista, they caved to the whining from Dell and HP that most of their unsold boxes were underpowered for Vista, and changed the minimum requirement, but only *on paper*. Vista, itself, didn't care about the change, happily needing processors and memory most users didn't have. If Microsoft had stuck to their guns, it would have gotten a much better reception.
  • For me, it's new. That's the only reason I need. I can stare at something different for the next 5 years.
  • I've been using Win11 since beta and I really don't see much of the benefits apart from the window snap and more intuitive UI on explorer. Widgets are useless to hide under Taskbar, I never remember to click to check and almost don't know it's existing. Please renovate the desktop to take back win8 with widgets(not live tiles) back to desktop and allow to switch back and forth the desktop screens when users need to work with shortcuts /files. As default,the desktop screen should be sticky with widgets, only hold ctrl key+ to switch to files/shortcuts screen when needed. That's way it helps to showcase the power of widgets and make devs have motivations to join the app/widgets on windows. The old desktop must be changed.
  • I see Windows 11 as an unnecessary change. It serves in my opinion a different intent. It is a mobile UI put on a desktop OS. Hence totally incoherent. The package serves both groups of people; easy consumers and potent enterprises. However after a while it would in its current form feel incompetent. That's why it is an unnecessary change currently. I see the release of W11 currently as 1.0 public testing. It features decoupled UI elements and a component based feature set. The OS is no less and no more than a playground for Windows to become the Core OS, also paving the way to become the OS capable to serve mobile devices in whatever form. Currently it's too mobile looking for desktop users and too bloated for mobile users.
  • I really don´t get what is wrong with these so called "experts" Windows 11 is faster, more secure and has quite a few conveniences that make it a huge step up from windows 10 like the snap feature, being able to remember where windows were when you reconnect your laptop to an external monitor, a search feature that finally works. These alone make it a solid update. Sure its still missing features but these will soon come. I wonder if these "experts" also rate the mac updates as harshly...
  • I'm unsure where I stand. Excluding time in applications, which is presumably effectively unchanged from 10 -> 11, I worry about making the rest of my time more or less productive. When I want to see the weather at a glance, something I do about 2-3 times per day, I hit the Windows key on my keyboard and look at the various Weather live tiles. I think Windows 11 will mimic this with Widgets. I use Jump Lists CONSTANTLY -- that's my main way to get into documents. I still don't know if those are still available in Windows 11. Maybe in the Taskbar, but not on the Start menu? I could live with that. I use Jump Lists on Start, but the big time hit would be if my main pinned-to-Taskbar apps lost their Jump Lists (can someone report: does Windows 11 Taskbar and/or Start still support right-click to access recent documents for that app, AKA Jump Lists?). If these are still there, then that's good too. Like with Weather, I choose whether to open Windows Central or a news app by hitting the Windows key and looking at the respective Live Tiles. If there's a new story, I click it to read it. Otherwise, I move on to my next task. I probably do this about once an hour, depending how my day is going. This might be OK in Windows 11 eventually, if Windows Central and my various news sources create Windows 11 Widgets. I don't like MS' news sources, as they mostly slant to wildly far-leftist sources (to be fair, you can get other sources in there and block the worst offenders, but even after that, it still doesn't really get good coverage), making it too biased and unbalanced for me, so the built-in news Widget is not good enough to replace the equivalent features of Windows 10. Will Windows Central provide a Windows 11 Widget? If so, that would go a long way to making this part OK. I use right-click on various document types frequently to get to Open With (especially for audio and video files, where there are multiple programs I use to review them, depending on the situation -- e.g., sometimes an MP3 in Groove/Media Player as default player, sometimes in Audacity to review levels or edit, sometimes in Mp3tag to review/edit its metadata). I understand Windows 11 makes this harder by burying that under a More option, adding at least 1 and probably 2 additional clicks every time I want to open those documents. Similarly, for zipped files, I generally use 7zip's right-click menu to unzip in place to a specific folder name, which will also now be buried a few steps deeper. That's hardly a fatal change, but it's a downgrade from what I have now in Windows 10. Drag-and-drop onto a Taskbar icon would be a passable substitute for some of these problems, but I understand that capability is missing now too. I hope we see more video reviews that hit on these changes and how power-users find the work-arounds. I'm OK with some things in Windows 11 being worse if most are better, but I want to really understand the significance of these impacts.
  • I think what you're getting at is a bunch of ergonomic issues that people who live in the OS and use it daily for productivity - up to an including those who you might think of as "power users" - that seem to have been thrown at us because Panos Panay wanted the OS to look new and fresh. Screw new and fresh, I want fast and efficient and comfortable. This is the OS for getting things done, not the OS for bored teenagers. And all of this overshadows all the good improvements under the hood, plus the improvements to window management and touch. The basic muscle-memory ergonomics are among the most important aspects of any operating system.
  • The taskbar and Start menu went from proffesional to consumer.
    I paused my updates till they make Windows for pro users again.
  • In what way did they do that? I ask as someone who has not yet used Windows 11 and am on the fence on upgrading. The new features are well promoted, but it's harder to learn exactly what I'd be losing. I suppose that's because we all use Windows a little differently, so reviewers have a hard time explaining every missing or changed use-case. They can really only hit the ones that matter to themselves.
  • I have ran it for about four weeks as an Insider and than rolled it back. Two things that caused me to do so:
    * inability to move taskbar to the side of the screen -- for what I do, vertical real estate is premium. It is barely acceptable on 3:2 screen, on 16:9 screen it is a non-starter.
    * bad palm rejection on Surface Go 2 (duly reported to Microsoft). And I mean 2003-style-netbook bad, making device unusable. Hopefully, it is fixed in the final release, but, given Microsoft's handling of the feedback, I would not be so sure. The rest was annoying but survivable. OTOH I have not seen a compelling reason for upgrade -- using Surface Go as the tablet is a non-starter, software revisions notwithstanding. Another oft-cited reason -- running graphical applications in WSL is easily achievable by running WSL1 + X410 ($5 in the Store). Android applications without Google Play Services aren't even amusing. Hopefully, this will help you with your upgrade decision.
  • I think paquitoradioboy is referring to the removal of Live Tiles (and no effective replacement) and the inability to group your apps and arrange them in space that that implies. Those widgets aren't app launchers. Clicking on them leads to the web. It's utterly stupid. I suppose that can be fixed easily but why not from the start? The combined widget pane + app launcher that was Live Tiles was a good concept and could have been improved instead of ditched entirely. Now I feel like I'd be running Chrome OS or some old version of Android if I had the W11 Start menu.
  • Andrew G1, good points. I have grown dependent on grouping my apps on the Start Menu. I have all my system utilities in one block, audio and video apps in another, communication in another, news and weather in another, etc. I also like that I can make the ones I use most bigger, even if they don't have a useful Live Tile. Also, some of the Live Tiles are excellent -- weather, news, Windows Central, and To Do. To Do's live tile is a great example of your point that linking to the web site instead of the app (To Do) is a major loss of function.
  • The Microsoft Account requirement us why I'm passing. I'm not paying $400 to upgrade my computers to avoid that. Microsoft doing everything they can to force this on people.
  • iN8ter, I appreciate having anything forced on you can be a negative, but curious: what is the objection to using a Microsoft Account? If you have a mobile device, you need a Google account to use an Android phone or an Apple account to use an iOS device. Like Apple, and unlike Google, Microsoft doesn't sell any data associated with your Microsoft account information to third parties. And, if your concern is privacy, your Microsoft Account doesn't even need to be your name. It can be anything, like "DontTrackMe@Outlook.com." Then you can still choose what information is uploaded or not. For example, if you don't want to use OneDrive to store your documents, you don't have to. I'm a privacy fanatic and advocate myself and accept the added burden that requires by using different accounts for different purposes to prevent Google and others from tracking me (or at least make it harder), but I don't really see the concern in this case. If MS were lying about the data they gathered and used, then not using a Microsoft Account to sign in wouldn't provide any protection anyway -- if the PC is connected to the Internet, an unscrupulous MS could pull any data they wanted from your computer. The login account name should be the least of your concerns. What am I missing?
  • Not being an OP, I do not know what his problem with the Microsoft Account is... Me, personally, I have used local account on all shared devices (media centers, etc.). Incidentally, these, usually, run Home edition. I can add dummy Microsoft account and go around the devices turning every bit of synchronization off, but that would be a nuisance at the very least. Quite possibly a repeatable nuisance if Microsoft will decide to synchronize something it wasn't before.
  • I don't want my computers to require an online identity for the OS to function. That's just not something I'm interested in. I like having minimal amounts of accounts to manage. If you create an Microsoft Account, and it's basically tied to your computers, then you have to manage that. This is why I don't tend to mix ecosystems much, these days, because you end up having to keep track of and manage 3-4 different accounts (Google Account, Samsung Account, Apple ID, Microsoft Account, PlayStation Account, Roku Account, etc.). That's ignoring Social Media Accounts, since I don't use services like Facebook or Twitter. It has nothing to do with me thinking Microsoft is selling my Data to the NSA. It has everything to do with me preferring to keep my digital life as simple as possible, and decrease the amount of online identity management that I pile onto myself. This includes watching for password compromise notifications, and then changing passwords - often across multiple different devices that do not use the same sync services - and I'm not paying for a "Password Manager." Limiting the number of accounts that I have to manage is cheaper, and even more effective as it decreases my online "surface area" as it regards to attacks and compromises. Services like Microsoft Teams even require you to give them your phone number to use on mobile, which they then tie/add to your Account and set as an additional login (WTF?). You cannot choose what information is uploaded or not in entirety, though. There is a certain minimum that you are required to share. But, that is not the point. I'm not sure why you're going through all of this trouble to speculate... I am willing to share minimal diagnostics with Microsoft. I am not willing to tie a Microsoft Account to my login to use my computer. I'm not upgrading to an OS that mandates I create and maintain an online identity and tie it to my computer's operating system. No. Just No. The end.
  • I just don't get this. You can make your MS account as minimal as you wish. You don't have to tie it to anything else.
  • The Ping-Pong of Good-Bad Windows products continues; Windows 1 - The less said the better
    Windows 2 - Meh. It ran Excel and allowed for Expandable Memory beyond 640K.
    Windows 3 - Good
    Windows Bob - Bad
    Windows - 9x - Good
    Windows - ME - Bad
    Windows - XP - Good
    Windows - Vista - Bad
    Windows - 7 - Good
    Windows - 8 - Bad
    Windows - 10 - Good
    Windows - 11 - ??? If you look at history, every time MS tries to modify the GUI a lot, it turns out a bad version of Windows, then, they take what actually worked, and meld it into the old GUI and declare it a new version. I think W11 will be another Windows Vista type product where they tried to move a little too far all at once and subsequent versions (W11.1, 11.2, etc.) will bring back a lot of older interfaces a la Windows 7-8-10 transition.
  • Mostly agree with that list, at least from a market-success perspective, with one exception: Microsoft Bob wasn't really an OS. It was more like an advanced Clippy or primitive Cortana that worked with some file types to help out. But it was indeed in the "Bad" column, whatever it was. :-) My speculation: I do think that some of the features in the UI that have been removed will come back in subsequent updates, but I don't think 11 will carry a "bad" rap. I think those missing features will be added quickly in the coming months, before it is widely adopted. Ultimately, with those changes in tow, still under the "Windows 11" name, it will be "good."
  • That is why I left it a ???. I applaud what they are trying to do security-wise and moving to a VBS-based OS, but they will have to drag some kicking and screaming to do so.
    Those that refuse, well, W10 will be around at least until 2025 (The LTSC 2019 Enterprise version is supported until 2029) and if they really don't like the direction, there is always Linux.
  • The SteamBox supporters here are obviously good with Microsoft losing users to Linux. :-) Personally, I hope MS addresses those missing pieces in the coming months. I also need to remind myself that Windows 7, which was very popular, also didn't have most of these features that we're losing in moving from 10 to 11. Of course, it did have Jump Lists and folders in Start. I still haven't heard if Windows 11 has killed Jump Lists in Start and/or on the Taskbar, but I do think loss of folders is a big deal.